The Bible college Oak Hill has apologised for previously accepting a £2,000 donation from a vicar who abused members of his congregation, saying it plans to return the money.
Jonathan Fletcher was the vicar of Emmanuel Church Wimbledon until 2012. In 2017, allegations about his behaviour around other adult men started coming to light, with a full report released in March 2021. The report stated that very few people knew of the specific experiences of others in the church before 2017, but that the wider church network could have done a lot more between 2017 and 2019 to stop Fletcher's influence continuing after information had come to light.
Most people in the wider church found out about the allegations when rector Vaughan Roberts announced them at the Evangelical Missionary Assembly in June 2019.
In 2018 and October 2019, Oak Hill College in North London (pictured), as part of Kingham Hill Trust which trains people for ordination, received two gifts of £2,000, sent by Jonathan Fletcher. The gift was sent on behalf of the FC Charitable Trust, which supports the advancement of the Christian faith and of which Fletcher was then a trustee.
After receiving the October 2019 gift, the College said its "internal processes flagged the gift to be reviewed in light of what had emerged earlier in 2019."
The Oak Hill leadership team referred it to a Kingham Hill trustee who had the authority to return a charitable gift and a decision was taken not to consult the Charity Commission about returning the gift. They say this was an informal consultation.
In a statement released this week, Oak Hill College said: "In light of what had been made public earlier that year, we want to acknowledge that it was wrong to receive the gift in Oct 2019. There was an opportunity to take a private but important stand against the abuses perpetrated by Jonathan Fletcher, and we failed to take it. When these gifts were recently made public, the impression will have been given to Jonathan's victims that we do not treat his actions or their suffering seriously. We deeply regret and are sorry for the hurt we will have caused and the example we set."
The Kingham Hill Trust is now asking the Charity Commission for permission to return both gifts.
The College added that changes have been made so that trustees are now reviewing financial gifts on a regular basis and that decisions like this are more clearly documented.
They add: "In light of recently published reports and those that are forthcoming, there will be much more to learn. We are grateful for external and independent insights into conservative evangelical culture and Oak Hill is committed to making every appropriate change to ensure that the needs of victims are prioritised, that abuses of power do not go unchallenged and that transparency and truthfulness are paramount."